The BMJ withdraw “incorrect figure” on statin side effects

The BMJ today took the step of withdrawing statements about statins

…suggesting that adverse events occur in 18-20% of patients

These statements in two articles published last October in the BMJ – one by John Abramson and colleagues focusing on new proposals to extend the routine use of statins to people at low risk of cardiovascular disease, and one by Dr Aseem Malhotra which repeated the figure – have been withdrawn because they

….exaggerated concerns over side effects.

Now I should firstly acknowledge that I agree that there is an entirely valid debate to be had about the wider use of statins for primary prevention and, that there are valid concerns that serious adverse effect data has not been fully disclosed in the manner which would satisfy all of the critics. The issues around statins are highly complex, and while there are many who can seem to approach these matters in a balanced reasonable manner there any many who are blind to evidence, or incapable of a disinterested evaluation of both sides of the argument.

No-one epitomises the myopic, black and white thinking about statins better than Zoe Harcombe – who today excelled herself – making spurious claims and attempting to deflect attention away from these headlines without acknowledging any errors had been made.

This is so serious – barely days after Australian dissent was silenced, UK freedom/truth is under attack 😦

Perhaps Zoe is reading a different BMJ editorial to me but I just don’t understand how this could be considered an attack on freedom or truth. A claim was made. The claim was queried. The authors responded. The claim was investigated by the BMJ. The writer of cited paper (Zhang) confirmed the authors incorrect interpretation. The authors fully co-operated and a retraction was made by the authors and BMJ. Its not complicated! Am I missing something?

This is so serious…[…]….The CTT won’t release Serious Adverse Effect data so how can we know?

The simple answer is that until –  or indeed if – that data is released we cannot know for sure about serious adverse effects. But that isn’t a good argument for not retracting a claim we now know is incorrect, is it?

This is the official BMJ article. The BMJ was alerted by Rory Collins – the top dog who refuses to share the SAE info

This is certainly true, but Zoe neglects to mention that other rapid responses had also queried the figure. Also, the source and motivation for the complaint is largely an irrelevant distraction because it was found by the BMJ, and willingly conceded by the authors to be an entirely valid one.

Not content with that Zoe tweeted the  BMJ editor Fiona Goodlee with

Will this panel have the power to force CTT to release the SAE data on statins that they refuse to disclose?

Yes Zoe – I’m sure a panel set up specifically to decided whether retraction of the two articles in full – as opposed to the specific statement in question – is justified, will spend a lot of time meddling in things totally outside their remit.

If you go back to one of the original rapid responses to Dr Aseem Malhotra which challenged his claim, you will find some now prophetic words from Chris Lawson which I think sum up my feelings on this issue nicely

The saturated fat hypothesis needs challenging, the effectiveness of statins as a large-population intervention needs challenging, and pharmaceutical company data needs challenging, but not like this

Amen to that.


One thought on “The BMJ withdraw “incorrect figure” on statin side effects

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s